I was unable to take any decisions regarding airline - Former Civil Aviation Minister

Former Civil Aviation Minister Priyankara Jayaratne yesterday said that he was unable to take any decisions and did not even know any information pertaining to activities of SriLankan Airlines.

He said as a result he could not answer any of the questions raised by the Opposition MPs in Parliament regarding SriLankan Airlines.

Jayaratne added that he was so helpless and remained silent when Opposition MPs raised questions with regard to the airline and its activities.

Jayaratne made the above observations while giving evidence before the Presidential Commission to inquire into Allegations of large scale fraud and malpractices at SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Catering and Mihin Lanka.

He further said that though he had informed the Board of Directors to take necessary decisions, they had failed to do so.

Responding to the questions made by Additional Solicitor General PC Neil Unamboowe,the former Minister alleged that former SriLankan Airlines Chairman Nishantha Wickramasinghe and the Board of Directors were ignoring the subject Minister and as making decisions on the direction of then Finance Minister and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Jayaratne noted that he informed the former President’s Senior Additional Secretary Gamini Senerath about the situation that prevailed at the airline,but yet no measures were taken.

“It is at the Commission that I saw some of the important documents pertaining to the transactions made by the airline. I was not aware of the transactions that were made eventhough I was the subject Minister,” Jayaratne said.

He said that as the subject Minister he submitted a Cabinet Paper on May 27,2011 requesting Rs.520 Million for SriLankan Airlines and Mihin Lanka on the instructions of the Ministry Secretary for a five year development plan.

“In 2012, the Cabinet approved the proposal, but, the money was never passed. Former Chairman Wickremasinghe never discussed any matters related to the airlines with me,” he said. Jayaratne pointed out that then Chief Executive Officer of the airline Kapila Chandrasena was present at some the progressive review meetings.

“I do not know if SriLankan Airlines received Rs. 14.2 billion from Bonds or not. I was not made aware about it by any official. I did not even inquire on the matter as the Board of Directors functioned ignoring the line ministry directives,” he emphasised.

He said he was rendered helpless when he was questioned by the Opposition MPs in Parliament on this matter.

“A four member committee chaired by the Ministry Secretary was appointed to look into SriLankan Airlines but this Committee did not proceed,” he said

The former Minister said that the former Chairman was a planter and brother-in-law of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He added that a Cabinet Paper was submitted on March 22, 2012 to obtain US$ 121 million from the Mashreq Bank and the Bank of Ceylon was a guarantee.

“I was not aware of many things happening at SriLankan Airlines but placed my signature for the recommendations made by the Ministry Secretary,” he said. He added that Ranjith Silva and Dr.Ravindra Ruberu were serving as Ministry Secretaries and he had trust in them.

The Bank of Ceylon had issued two bonds for the airline without inquiring from me. But, I was not aware of more information of these bonds,” he said.

Jayaratne added that the airlined was struck in a major financial crisis. “The crisis is so severe that the airline could not implement a business plan,” he added. He said that he submitted Cabinet Papers only,but insisted that he did not submit any Cabinet Papers with regard to the purchasing of airbuses or the leasing of airbuses.



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